Exercising when you have arthritis



The pain and stiffness associated with arthritis can result in a person avoiding all movement. Ironically the best method to combat arthritis is movement. Rhythmical and low impact movement encourages joint lubrication, strengthening to offset the poor biomechanical loading, and flexibility to maintain and gain range of motion. The Total Gym provides the perfect vehicle to attain these goals. The philosophy “no pain no gain” is not one I typically believe in; however, there will be an element of discomfort that can sometimes be felt when initiating exercise. For instance, an arthritic ankle may feel uncomfortable for initial steps of the day, and with walking the ankle starts to loosen up and feel better. However, if there were large amount of walking, the ankle can result in greater pain and swelling.

So how does one know the right amount of movement? The key is to be mindful. May sound simple, but listening to how your body feels, assessing how the joint is responding to movement, and stopping when the movement starts to feel uncomfortable. Working though pain is not recommended. With time, the mind body connection will strengthen and the understanding of what your limits are will be clarified.

 

The following is a full body workout aimed at moving through full ranges of motion, varying tempos to allow for greater strengthening, and rhythmic motion to provide lubrication and neural relaxation to assist with pain and muscle guarding associated with arthritis. Perform each movement for 30-60 seconds for 1-3 sets. If able, vary the tempo within the set.

Position & Exercise

Total Gym Accessory and Incline

Movement/Tempo

Modification/Progressions

Supine Cardio Pull

 

Middle to top 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Allow the arms to reach overhead with squatting and pull into the sides upon return.

 

Start slowly and increase your pace as able.

 

Vary the squats in terms of width and alternating right and left.

 

Adding a plyometric alternating jump to bilateral jump is a low impact cardio option.

 

Arms can bend into the sides, perform circles or move to alternating pulling straight down to the hips.

 

Supine Squats Bilateral

 

Middle to top 1/3

With legs shoulder distance apart, bend and straighten the knees.

 

Focus on moving slowly up and down then focus on bending the knees slowly.

 

Press through the entire foot if able.

 

If range of motion is limited, then move the feet toward the top of the squat stand. Focus on pressing through the entire heel.

Supine Bridging

 

Middle to top 1/3

With the heels at the top of the squat stand, lift the hips up and down.

 

Move slow or at a moderate pace. Too quick of a pace will likely lead to poor execution.

 

Initiate by pressing though the heels and tightening the buttocks.

 

Vary the angle of knee bending.

 

 

Supine Single Leg Squat

 

Middle to top 1/3

Bend and straighten one knee at a time while the nonmoving leg can be toe touching for support or into the chest or 90-90.

 

Squat slowly on the way down to enhance strength.

 

Ensure the knee is tracking along the 2nd and 3rd toes.

 

Press through the entire foot.

 

Initiate by tightening the leg and pressing through the foot to avoid the tendency to pressing the low back into the glide board to start the movement.

 

 

 

Supine Bridging Single Leg

 

Middle to top 1/3

Lift the hips up into a bridge position, maintain the bridge and push the board up and down the rails while the nonmoving leg can be toe touching for support or into the chest or 90-90.

 

Focus on slowly returning the board to the bottom/start position.

 

Initiate by pressing though the heels and tightening the buttocks.

 

Vary the angle of knee bending.

 

Optional squat while holding a bridge position.

 

Keep hips level.

 

Supine Arm Circles

Short lever

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Start with elbows bent and at shoulder level. Keep the elbows bent and perform arm circles clockwise and/or counterclockwise.

Focus on pulling shoulders away from the ears throughout the movement.

 

Progress range of motion with straightening the arms and pull over and out to the sides and overhead.

 

 

Supine Alternating Arm Pullover

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

With arms by the sides, reach one arm overhead then pullover to the start.

 

 

Move with slow and controlled movement.

 

Avoid moving too fast which can result in momentum and greater joint irritation.

 

Can start with short lever of pulling elbow to the side hand to shoulder

The stationary arm can be reaching overhead toward the tower.

 

Alternate or perform one set at time.

 

Static equilibrium.

 

Side Sitting Trunk Rotation with High Elbow Row 

 

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Seated sideways holding a handle in each hand. The arm closest to the base will pull out to the side while rotating the trunk to the base.

 

Avoid moving too fast which can result in momentum and greater joint irritation.

 

 

Progress to straightening the elbow then slowly return with the arm straight.

 

Maintain the arm straight and pull across the body.

Side Sitting Overhead Press with Lateral Flexion/Side bending

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Seated sideways holding a handle in each hand. With the hand closest to the tower, bend the elbow into the side. Press the arm overhead while leaning the body over to the squat stand.

 

Avoid moving too fast which can result in momentum and greater joint irritation.

 

 

The other hand can support the body on the glideboard.

 

To decrease stability requirements, place the feet on the floor and/or release the handle closest to the base.

 

Incorporate a high elbow row with the other arm.

 

Incorporate biceps curl into overhead press.

  

Sitting Facing Tower Leaning forward to upright rowing.

 

 

Arm Pulley

Sitting facing the tower, allow the body to reach forward for the tower. Slowly roll through the spine to upright and bend the arms bring the elbows to shoulder level then roll forward as the arms reach back for the tower.

 

 

 

 

 

Optional Pulling arms out to the sides like a “T”, reverse shoulder fly.

 

Focus on sliding the shoulders away from the ears throughout the movement.

 

To increase the stretch to the low back and stability requirements, sit with the legs out straight or perform in a low kneeling position.

 

Incorporate a biceps curl while sitting upright.

 

Visualize lengthening through the spine.

 

Sit lightly.

 

Use the feet on the floor to assist with balance, flexibility and/or stability.

 

Seated Forward Arm Circles

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Sitting facing away from the tower, press the arms out straight, to the sides like a “T” and bend the elbows back into the sides.

 

Avoid moving too fast which can result in momentum and greater joint irritation.

 

 

Maintain the shoulders reaching away from the ears.

 

 Visualize lengthening through the spine.

 

Sit lightly.

 

Use the feet on the floor to assist with balance, flexibility and/or stability.

 

Seated forward

Chest Stretch with Arm Cable

 

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Arm Pulley

Holding the handles allow the arms to reach behind the body allowing the chest to stretch.

Maintain the shoulders reaching away from the ears.

 

 Visualize lengthening through the spine.

 

Sit lightly.

 

Use the feet on the floor to assist with balance, flexibility and/or stability.

 

Move down the glideboard to increase the stretch and/or lean forward at the hips.

 

Split kneeling

Hip Flexor

Hip Adductor

Hamstring/Calf

Lower to Middle 1/3

 

Hip Flexor:

Standing facing away from or to the tower, place one knee bent on the glideboard while the other is bent and supported on the floor (split lunge position) facing forward.

 

Hip Adductor: Standing facing away from or to the tower, place one knee bent on the glideboard while the other is bent and supported on the floor (split lunge position) facing to the side.

 

Hamstring/Calf: Standing facing away from or to the tower, place one knee bent on the glideboard while the other is straight with toes pulled up.

 

 

 

Can use squat stand or chair for balance.

 

Incorporate arm reaches for hip flexor and adductor stretch:

Overhead

Side to side

Rotational

 

Hamstring/Calf Stretching: Turn toes in, up to the sky and out to the side.

 

Ensure the knee is straight not locked out. If needed maintain a slight bend.

 

 

Elizabeth Leeds, DPT

Elizabeth Leeds, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training, and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues.Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.

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